Madagascar: restoring Lake Sofia

Building a future where Madagascar’s wetlands and wildlife are protected and people’s livelihoods are secure

Madagascar is unusual in that it is home to a long list of species that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet, including the Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard. It’s also a place of extreme poverty and environmental loss, so we’re doing all we can to support people’s livelihoods, helping them to protect their wetlands and the stunning biodiversity of the country.

The problem

Driving across the central plateau of Madagascar feels like passing through a mining wasteland. The destruction from agriculture and liberal use of fire has laid waste to millions of acres of forests and wetlands. Red scars disfigure the earth where topsoil has eroded. Tree cover has declined by an estimated 90 percent, much of it in the past century. Stripped of these stabilising forests, entire mountainsides have simply fallen away.

Wetland loss is similarly catastrophic. It’s estimated that 60 percent have been lost in the last 60 years. On the central plateau almost all remaining wetlands are severely degraded and many of the species that rely on them, including the Madagascar pochard – the world’s rarest duck, are on the bring of extinction.

The situation is equally grim for the local people. These poor rural communities are some of the most vulnerable in the world. They’re highly dependent on the wetlands and the natural resources around them for their day-to-day survival. As their wetland environment has been destroyed, so too has their means of living.

In Madagascar, environmental damage and poverty are intrinsically linked.

What WWT are doing

We’re working with communities to develop sustainable ways of managing their natural environment, to benefit both wildlife and people. From education and training to securing land rights and encouraging more sustainable and diverse agricultural practices, we’re ensuring people have the knowledge and skills they need to be more resilient.

We are also working across the country to help manage wetlands better, creating a national network of wetland managers and providing them with the skills and tools they need to do the job. We’re working with government and civil society to raise awareness and understanding about the importance of healthy, functioning wetlands.

Key achievements

One of our key sites in Madagascar is Lake Sofia, upon which we released Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard ducks into the wild.

Around the lake, huge improvements have already been made:

  • Nearly 1,000 people have joined community based management associations
  • We now have 450 farmers involved in sustainable rice schemes. Since the introduction of sustainable rice farming techniques, rice yields increased by 300%
  • 100% of fishers now use legal nets and initial surveys suggest their daily income has increased more than two-fold
  • Surveys suggest there’s been an 80% reduction in the use of pesticides across the whole catchment
  • We’ve built a boat landing platform at Lake Sofia to give fishers safe access to the lake where it won’t disturb other areas of natural marsh
  • We released the first headstarted Madagascar pochard ducklings back into the wild

You might also be interested in

  • Project: Saving the Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard

    It is at Lake Sofia where we hope to make a home for the Madagascar pochard, the world’s most endangered duck.
  • Feature: Madagascar - Wetlands in trouble

    Madagascar's sprawling wetlands are impressively biodiverse and essential for those who live near them. Yet they have shrunk by 60% and the remaining lakes are polluted, over-fished and home to invasive species.
  • Feature: Meet the communities of Lake Sofia

    Lake Sofia is viewed as a spiritual place for locals to communicate with ancestors. These locals are crucial to restoring Madagascar's environment.

Partners and funders

This is a collaborative project of WWT, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Asity Madagascar, Organisation de Soutien pour le Développement Rural à Madagascar and the Government of Madagascar.